Response to an earlier post

Last week I posted about "College Dropout Factories," and mentioned that I hadn't heard of the Tennessee institution mentioned at number eight: Visible School.  I got a response and clarification of the ranking from Crissy Lintner.  Most of the comments I get are spam or offers for linkages to online learning sites, so since this was different and substantive, I thought I would post her entire comment:
My name is Crissy Lintner, and I represent Visible School - Music and Worship Arts College in Memphis, Tenn. I read your blog post related to Washington Monthly's recently published "College Dropout Factories." The college you mention in your post, Visible School, is a small, private, not-for-profit music arts college, according to this list, ranks No. 7 with an 8% graduation rate. As a school that keeps its enrollment – intentionally - around 120 students each year (and 29 graduates in 2010) this news came as a shock to professors of the college. After very little “research” on our end, we found the mistake made by authors Ben Miller and Phuong Ly as it relates to the IPEDS reports they relied on for their information. By the way, we e-mailed Ben Miller earlier today for the data he used to compile his list, which he did send, and here’s what we found in discrepancies:

Visible School's overall graduation rate is 72% as reported on IPEDS Data Center. This is easily referenced by looking in the "Graduation Rates" section of our profile on IPEDS, included in the attached documentation. The authors of this article did refer to IPEDS but did not look quite deep enough into the numbers.

The 8% graduation rate attributed to Visible School is wholly misleading. This graduation rate is for the 2002 cohort and includes the members of that cohort who had completed their bachelor degree by 2008. Our school was founded in 2000, and did not offer bachelor degrees until 2005. The 2002 cohort boasted a whopping graduation rate of 93% for the 1-year certificate, which was our only offering at that time. Three of those students, who had already graduated with the 1-year certificate, chose to come back and complete the bachelor degree in 2005, the first year of its offering. It is this dynamic which created the deceptive 8% graduation rate for the 2002 cohort. According to Ben Miller himself, they “considered only four-year degree institutions.” Visible School’s bachelor’s offering is a three-year degree program.

Visible School is a small institution that is dedicated to doing college right: it has an unheard of 4:1 staff to student ratio, excellent academic advising, tutoring, and probation support services, and an integrated student development and academic plan which fully equips its students for success in college and beyond. Visible School is a reputable college, not only in Memphis but both nationally and internationally, giving its students a launch pad to pursue careers in the field of music and worship leadership – with an incredible roster of successes - and, an article of this nature (or a report like this) can be detrimental to continued success. The fact that it is based upon inaccuracies warrants an immediate correction, which we have requested of the article’s authors.

While you were simply commenting and posting about an article that was what one would assume to be a well-researched list, I felt it important to reach out to you and let you know of this misrepresentation. I would welcome the opportunity for you to speak with Shannon Kropf, director of academic development at Visible School, and can forward the information that Mr. Miller used to qualify the college as No. 7 on the list of “worst” colleges so you can compare against the attached data. And should you be willing, would love if you could post an update to your blog, considering this information is incorrect. We are currently waiting for Mr. Miller’s response to our request for retraction and removal of Visible School from the list entirely.

Thank you for your time,
Crissy Lintner
Director of Client Services
Obsidian Public Relations
Direct: (901) 461-3139
Fax: (901) 544-7163


Ben Miller said…
Hi Rick,
I saw your post and thought it was worth providing some background/context. All the data used for the analysis in the piece came from the U.S. Department of Education's IPEDS database, which as I am sure you are aware, is self-reported by the institutions. Any data that appears there was entered by the school.

After exchanging a few e-mails with staff from Visible School and Ms. Lintner, they admitted that the mistaken graduation rate data came from the school and that they erred in reporting a bachelor's degree cohort when they should not have had any students listed. Had the correct data been entered into IPEDS, they would not have shown up on the list. The presentation of the issue in Ms. Lintner's letter above is incorrect and was written before staff at the Visible School had fully explained the issue at hand. Moreover, the three-year bachelor's degree is irrelevant because IPEDS has a bachelor's degree-seeking cohort, which is what I used.

We are working to update the rankings to remove Visible School and a few other institutions that made similar errors on their graduation rate information. But in all those cases, the errors in data entry rested with the information provided by those schools; had correct information been entered, they would not have shown up on the list.


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